The Season in Full Swing
As birds become increasingly busy, so does the team at the Missouri River Bird Observatory. Spring migration is in full swing, which means birds are headed north. While we are sleeping, millions of birds are using the stars for navigation. As they reach their breeding grounds, birds are busy reproducing. The MRBO staff is currently spread out over the state of Missouri working on exciting projects. We would like to take this opportunity to share with you what we have been up to over the past several weeks.
Our team has set up mist nets at Bruns Tract in Pettis County and Mora Conservation Area in Benton County. We arrive at each site as the sun is rising, which is around 6:30 am. We swiftly take standard measurements and band the birds we catch in our mist nets, and then let them go. For the safety of the birds, we close our nets if the wind gusts get to be 10 mph or more. Some days have been particularly windy, and this has determined what time we stop banding for the day. As we work we take note of all the birds we are seeing and hearing at the field site and record this data as well. Working at the field station requires in-depth knowledge of all the species that live there, and your eyes and ears must to be open at all times! Notable species from the past couple weeks include Wilson’s Snipe, Henslow’s Sparrow, Short-eared Owl, Brown Thrasher, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Field Sparrow, Northern Harrier, and Eastern Meadowlark.
The crew is hard at work surveying over 60 wetlands throughout the state! They have started in southeast Missouri and are moving towards the southwest region near Nevada. This is the first round of surveys for the wetlands season; this round focuses on how birds are using the sites during migration. Mid-May into June will represent the breeding season window.
We provide many educational programs in a variety of settings across the state of Missouri in order to educate people of all ages on the importance of birds. The first event our seasonal educator Heather attended at was at an elementary school in Columbia. Students were taught, “who is an ornithologist?” and discovered what species of birds were living in their school yard. Red-headed Woodpeckers, Turkey Vultures, and American Robins were found by the students, just to name a few!
Several of the MRBO staff attended a Bio-Blitz sponsored by the University of Central Missouri at Pertle Springs in Warrensburg. We banded birds all morning in front of the public so they could get a great view of what we do in the field. We also created a list of all the bird species we saw and heard that day with the help of everyone who was in attendance. Together we made quite a long list, with a total of 37 species! It is eye-opening to realize just how many birds rely on one area.
The Missouri River Bird Observatory’s office is in the historic town of Arrow Rock, and we provide natural history programs to visiting schools along with the Friends of Arrow Rock. We had our first school group of the season this week. Heather led a class of 3rd graders to some of Arrow Rock’s most important natural sites including the Big Spring which watered weary travelers in the 1800’s and the large limestone bluff known to explorers such as Lewis and Clark as “The Rock of Arrows”. Of course, Heather helped the students identify birds along the way!